5 autographs from people who changed the world

Sometimes a discovery is so important...

So pervasive...

That you can separate history into a before and after.

Powered flight. Antibiotics. Nuclear power.

And, of course the internet.

Here are 5 figures whose findings completely altered our lives, along with their autographs. 

5. Alexander Fleming

Before the development of antibiotics, an ordinary cut could be fatal.

Infection would set in and doctors would have no recourse to save you.

Alexander Fleming Autograph

Back in the days when you could still smoke cigarettes in labs (Image: RR Auction)

But in 1928, a Scottish scientist named Alexander Fleming made a remarkable discovery – completely by accident.

While performing some experiments on bread mould, he discovered that one strain seemed to have the power to destroy bacteria. Further work led him to develop penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic.

He later said: “I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.

“But I suppose that was exactly what I did.”

Fleming’s autograph is rare and enormously popular. Demand has pushed values up to around $1,289 for a signed photograph.

4. Robert Oppenheimer

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.

Robert Oppenheimer Autograph

Robert Oppenheimer writes to Sergeant Robert Leonard - a former colleague (Image: Christie's)

So quoted Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, as he remembered watching the first atomic mushroom cloud bloom above the New Mexico desert.

Whether the world is better or worse off as a result of the nuclear bomb is a matter of some debate.

Oppenheimer himself had mixed feelings.   

One rare letter from November 1945, written to thank a member of his technical staff for his efforts, sold for $5,000 at Christie’s.

3. The Wright Brothers

Just over 100 years ago, it took between seven and 10 days to travel from London to New York.

Today that same journey will take you around eight hours.

Wilbur Wright Autograph

Wilbur Wright's autograph is the rare of the two brothers (Image: Nate D Sanders)

The world is a much smaller place, thanks to the efforts of Orville and Wilbur Wright and their pioneering development of the first aeroplane.

The Wright Flyer may have been a flimsy construction of giant spruce and canvas, but it paved the way for modern airliners – any number of which are winging their way overhead as I write.

Items signed by both brothers are the key prize for collectors. Alone, Wilbur’s autograph is the rarest of the two – as he died in a crash at the age of 45. A circa 1908 Wilbur signed photograph of the Flyer made $36,000 in 2016.

2. Michael Faraday

Imagine a world without electricity, just for a moment.

No lights, no phones, no laptops.

Michael Faraday autograph

Michael Faraday carried out essential research into electricity (Image: Ira and Larry Goldberg)

We would still be in the dark ages, in every sense of the word.

The efforts of 19th century scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) led to the use of electricity as a power source for technology.

While he’s not quite a household name, he’s held in high regard by those in the know.

You can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for a good signed letter.

1. Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee is one of a handful of people who can genuinely claim to have changed the world.

Tim Berners-Lee autograph

Without Tim Berners-Lee, you wouldn't be reading this article (Image: Bado eMart Auctions)

While working at CERN (home to the Large Hadron Collider) in the late 1980s, he created a network of hyperlinks that allowed the user to switch pages of information.

This information was stored on remote servers. The user could access pages stored in computers other than their own.

This was the earliest incarnation of the World Wide Web.

And as you may have noticed, it’s become quite successful.

Today a Berners-Lee autograph will set you back upwards of $200.

Paul Fraser.

PS. Do you have a rare autograph for sale? I may be able to sell it for you. Get in touch at info@paufrasercollectibles.com.

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